Book Review: Special Forces in the Desert War, 1940-1943


by H. W. Wynter

Kew: The National Archives/Dulles: International Publishers Marketing, 2008. Pp. viii, 440. Maps, tables, appends, index. $19.95 paper. ISBN: 1905615299

Two formerly secret reports from Britain’s National Archives on the employment of special operations forces during the North African Campaign.

Special Forces in the Desert War, 1940-1943 combines two formerly secret reports written shortly after the Second World War by Brigadier Wynterts.  The first, “History of the Long Range Desert Group,” covers the operations of the LRDG from mid-1940 through March 1943, while the second, “The History of Commandos and Special Service Troops in the Middle East and North Africa,” deals with the exploits of several other special operations forces from early 1943 to April of 1943, including the Commandos, Layforce, Popski’s Private Army, and the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service.  Although a ‘first look’ at the events, and thus naturally written almost entirely from the British side, both works are highly informative, describing the origins, formation, organization, and above all operations of these troops.  Literally scores of missions are covered, not merely the more glamorous ones that ended up spawning memoirs and even motion pictures. 

A very useful book for those with an interest in special operations or in the desert war.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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